Tennessee vs Kentucky Odds, Picks | Here’s Your SEC Pick of Day

Tennessee vs Kentucky Odds, Picks | Here’s Your SEC Pick of Day article feature image

Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images. Pictured: Rick Barnes (Tennessee)

Tennessee vs Kentucky Odds

Saturday, Feb. 18
1 p.m. ET
Tennessee Odds
-110o / -110u
Kentucky Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Tennessee handed Alabama its first conference loss of the season on Tuesday night on Rocky Top.

Now the Volunteers have a chance to avenge their first conference loss of the year when they visit Lexington to take on Kentucky on Saturday. Tennessee closed as a 12-point favorite at home on Jan. 14, but lost the game outright by seven.

The line is much closer for the rematch at Kentucky in one of the most storied in-conference rivalries in the entire sport.

It's been a down season for Kentucky as the Wildcats find themselves squarely on the bubble. Another win against a top-five team could all but secure the Wildcats' place in the field of 68 next month.

The Volunteers have faltered in the past few weeks and one home win in a home run spot Tuesday doesn't change my view that the market is overrating them.

Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee has the No. 1 defense in college basketball, but it's built on some ridiculous shooting splits against it. The Volunteers are elite defensively, but there's a case to be made that this defense isn't quite as good as the market suggests.

Tennessee and Utah are far and away the two best defenses in the country in points per possession allowed on unguarded jump shots, per Synergy.

The Volunteers allow a lot of perimeter shots, and it's not that the defense is constantly swarming and never allowing open looks.

Tennessee ranks 80th defensively in percentage of jumpers that are unguarded. It's good, but far from suffocating and elite.

Most of the SEC isn't able to exploit this because the conference has few teams that can shoot consistently from the perimeter.

Kentucky is the outlier in the conference because the Wildcats have shot 36.2% from the perimeter this season. That number drops to 34.3% in league play, the third-best rate in the SEC.

The Volunteers' primary issues don't come on defense, though. If the Volunteers can force turnovers and run, they're an efficient offense. But in the half-court, Tennessee has major flaws and goes through scoring droughts that make it hard to trust.

Tennessee is in the 51st percentile nationally in PPP in the half-court on offense. That's far from sustainable enough for a team that's ranked inside the top five and rated as a top-five team by tournament odds and power ratings.

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Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky's defensive profile is the main reason why the Wildcats have slipped from a top-two seed last season to a bubble team.

They don't have a glaring weakness on defense, but they also don't do anything particularly well. The ball-screen defense has gotten exposed at times with Oscar Tshiebwe, as has the post defense.

Tennessee isn't really going to run its offense out of the post, and the Volunteers often go as their inconsistent guards go in the half-court.

They rely on second-chance looks, but Kentucky is the best defensive rebounding team in the SEC.

It's been an incredibly inconsistent showing from the Wildcats on a nightly basis this season. I expect to see an all-in effort at home against a rival and a top-five team in the country, but Kentucky did mail in a second half at Alabama earlier this year.

Additionally, the Wildcats were run off the court at home against Arkansas just a week ago.

Trying to figure out which Kentucky will show up is the challenging part of handicapping its games. Kentucky isn't going to be overmatched by the Volunteers' speed or athleticism and will be able to generate second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass.

Kentucky's offense goes into the post and runs a lot of hand-offs. If Tennessee has any defensive areas that aren't elite, it's post defense and hand-off defense, per Synergy.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Betting Pick

Tennessee's win against Alabama was a home-run spot for it after two bad losses, but it didn't convince me that this isn't still a flawed team.

Now on the road at Kentucky, the market is showing plenty of respect to Tennessee with this line. 

The Wildcats have the athleticism, and a more engaged defense will be enough to turn this game into a coin flip at Rupp Arena.

Kentucky's advantage on the offensive glass and its ability to keep Tennessee off the offensive boards is significant. The Volunteers had just four offensive rebounds in the first meeting.

I'll bet Kentucky at +2 or better on Saturday.

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